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'Performative lip service': Black Parent Council reacts to WCDSB director of education's apology

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The director of education at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board has issued an apology for a comment she made about anti-Black racism in the school board last week – but her latest statement is not sitting well with a local parent group.

On Feb. 28, Director of Education Loretta Notten spoke to the media about a November incident where police were called to a local school in response to the behaviour of a Black four-year-old student. The incident came to light on Feb. 23 following a private meeting between the child’s family, board administration and several community groups.

"We certainly realize that we have room to grow and we're committed to that growth," Notten said following the school board meeting on Feb. 28. "But I'd take umbrage to the allegation that there is systemic racism in our board."

At the time, Notten said it was "a most unfortunate situation whenever the police have to be called to a school and where a young student is involved."

In a notice posted on the school board’s website on Monday morning, Notten said she is “deeply sorry for those who saw my statement as not acknowledging their own lived experiences with anti-Black racism. I sincerely regret any pain I may have caused you.”

“I want to acknowledge that I inadvertently made a statement that did not represent this deep personal or organizational commitment to disrupt anti-Black racism,” the statement said in part. “I responded to a media question and in my attempt to state that we should not pre-determine the findings of the independent investigation, I instead indicated that I did not acknowledge the presence of systemic racism. I unreservedly apologize for that comment. It does not reflect my personal position, nor the position of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.”

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has ordered a review of the incident involving the young student.

"No four-year-child in this province or this country should have the police called on them," Lecce told CTV News in an interview on Feb. 25. "It's just unacceptable and that's why I decided to send in a review, to understand what transpired and to ensure it doesn't happen again."

In the statement issued on Monday, Notten acknowledged “we know we have work to do as an organization—work we have committed to.” She added the school system and other provincial policies need reform to “bring all students to their full potential.”

Black Parent Council KW criticises lack of action plan

Lena Thibeh, co-founder of the Black Parent Council KW, said she feels the apology was just an attempt to backtrack and save face.

“To us, as a collective, this is performative lip service,” she said. “She did not come with any action plans, nor short-term or long-term tangible actions to keep our children safe, to have our children thrive.”

Thibeh said racism in schools isn't new, this particular incident just made it into the public eye.

"We are demanding systemic change, and we will keep making every single incident public," Thibeh said. "We will keep pushing, we will keep pressuring the system."

Thibeh said she wants to see training implemented that includes guidance from Black, Indigenous and racialized people to help teachers better understand their students.

"That's real accountability. That's where words and actions meet," Thibeh said. "But right now, this is lip service and we don't want that. She can keep that to herself,”

With reporting by CTV Kitchener’s Colton Wiens

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